Israel-Egypt border: Three gunmen and Israeli soldier killed in clash


An injured Israeli soldier is wheeled into Soroka hospital in the southern town of Beersheva, Israel on Sept 21, 2012, following an exchange of fire with militants along Israel's southern border with Egypt. (Yehuda Lahiyani/AP)

Three gunmen who crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday were killed in a firefight after killing one Israeli soldier on the border and wounding another, the Israeli army said.

It was the latest of several cross-border attacks that have stirred Israeli concern about a rising security threat from Islamist militants in the Sinai region, where lawlessness has spread since the Egyptian revolution last year.

The gunmen crossed in a mountainous area along the desert frontier where Israel is working to complete a fence, said Capt. Eytan Buchman, an army spokesman.

The steel barrier was intended to keep out illegal African migrants who have streamed into Israel from Sinai in growing numbers in recent years, but it is increasingly seen also as a bulwark against armed infiltrators.

Israeli soldiers who were securing the construction zone were fired on from about 100 yards away as they fetched water for a group of migrants who had reached the border from the Egyptian side, the chief of the army’s southern command, Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, told reporters.

An additional Israeli force sent to the scene engaged the gunmen, and during the exchange of fire an explosive belt worn by one attacker detonated, Buchman said. He said the clash unfolded at Mount Harif, about halfway between the Gaza Strip and the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat.

The army said the gunmen wore camouflage uniforms and ammunition vests and had stockpiled three launchers for rocket-propelled grenades, an explosive belt and a machine gun in a nearby pit, suggesting that they had planned a larger assault.

Russo said the attack was “apparently by global jihad,” a reference to al-Qaeda-inspired groups who are believed to be operating in Sinai and have posted videos taking responsibility for previous attacks.

“We will reach anyone who dispatched this attack, and we will settle accounts with him,” Russo said.

An attack by militants last month on an Egyptian base near the border town of Rafah left 16 soldiers dead, prompting a broad crackdown by reinforced Egyptian units dispatched to Sinai. In that attack, the militants commandeered two vehicles and burst across the border with Israel before being stopped by Israeli forces.

In June, militants who crossed into Israel attacked vehicles carrying a crew working on the border fence, killing one worker. In August 2011, an attack on a border road north of Eilat left eight Israelis dead.

Islamist militants and local Bedouin tribesmen have also assaulted Egyptian police stations in Sinai and blown up pipelines carrying natural gas to Israel.

world

middle_east

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read World

world

middle_east

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.